What advice would you give to a creator struggling with art/writer’s/creative block? How do you personally handle it?
Do something else for a while, probably something non-creative. Play games, read comics, watch some films, or maybe research for a future project. When you’re already blocked, it’s hard to do any kind of creative work, and in my experience, trying to work through a block just makes the block last longer.
I feel art blocks are a losing battle, and the best way to fight them is to prevent them. Don’t let yourself work on something so long that you burn out on it. Preventative self-care!
I try to keep 3-ish active projects at a time, all in different media or at different stages of production. This way, I always have some different type of task I can switch to. When I start to get unhappy about drawing comics, I’ll switch to working on pixel art for my game. When I don’t want to draw at all, I’ve got another comic that still needs research and writing. When writing gets unsatisfying, I’m usually refreshed enough to go back to drawing. Even with this system, I still take time off from working every few weeks just in case. That relaxation time can be educational, one can always learn from others’ clever solutions and their mistakes.
When blocked on a specific project rather than on a particular type of work, I go back to the things that inspired the project in the first place. That usually helps me rebuild at least some of the excitement I had for the idea and feel inspired again. To this end, I hoard photos, art, and music on my computer and keep them sorted by project so I can go back to them easily.
I’ve learned over time that when I’m having a block it’s usually because I’m stuck between two different ways that something could go. Sometimes it’s a pose, panel layouts or a scene. What helps me to get out of the block is identifying what those crossroads options are and then picking one. It helps a lot to be able to talk through my thoughts behind why I’m caught between the two different directions with someone.
Tait of Pacifica says:
I think dealing with creative block requires some self diagnosis. There are a lot of things that can contribute to feeling blocked and so I don’t think there’s one answer to dealing with it. In order to overcome block you need to have some idea of what is giving you problems. Is your inner critic striking down every idea? Are you feeling burnt out? Bored? Afraid? Is your perfectionism getting in the way? Do you need to take a break? Conversely, do you need to just sit down and plow through?
In a nutshell, I think honest introspection, persistence, and time can overcome block. The tricky part is figuring out the root of your hangup.
Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is take a break from the thing that’s causing your creative block. This can be as simple as taking a hiatus, or what I like to do is work on other projects to keep my creative brain pumping without stressing out over the source of my block.
Another thing I’ve found helps is to stop posting my work online for a time, and just avoid social media for while. At least in my case, I can get into this habit of comparing my work and my online recognition to others, and that’s a cyclical assured self-destruction. The best way to prevent it is to force ourselves to not even look at social media.
And finally, usually your creative block isn’t its own isolated thing. Frequently, your personal life is what is causing your art or writer’s block, so try to figure out what in your life is keeping your creativity locked up inside your heart.
NJ Huff of Undead Friend says:
In my experience it’s best to push yourself through it, write or draw anything even doodles just getting your hand moving will help eventually break through the block. Be sure to take breaks as needed though too, it’s no good if you get burned out on it.
Maiji of Now Recharging says:
This is what I’ve found works for me. But I don’t see this as prescriptive; it’s simply an outline of what I do, and other creators may have different approaches. Try it, and if some things work but other things don’t, take what works for you. You’ll find other techniques for yourself over time as well.
1) Mental states are key, so first, I try to manage my expectations. This means remembering that this is totally normal! Everything has ups and downs, including creativity. It’s not realistic to expect yourself to be on fire 24/7 – and it’s not really healthy or sustainable either.
2) Give myself a break from the thing I’m struggling with. Focus on other stuff for a while – make some tea, take a shower, have a nice meal, meditate, go on with the rest of my day or with other projects. For any particular project, this break can be anywhere from a few hours to a few days or even months, depending on how I’m feeling and what else is going on in my life.
It used to feel really hard to just put everything down and stop, and sometimes it still feels counterintuitive. But I’m not actually putting everything down, just my intense focus/constant conscious awareness of it. A lot of studies indicate that rest is a crucial stage of progress as your brain/body consolidates what it’s been going through. From personal experience, I’ve found that, invariably, when I return to it – or sometimes even when I’m not really thinking about it – I have a sudden breakthrough on how to move forward. I feel much more recharged, and often it seems so clear and obvious in hindsight. I definitely feel I’ve seen the creative results of my subconsciousness continuing to make connections in the background time and time again.
3) On an ongoing basis, I look for opportunities to expand my horizons. This is also preventative – giving myself more options if I ever do have any blocks. Things like:
* Making an effort to check out what’s happening outside of my main space. Examples include seeing artists who work in mediums and genres different from what I normally do, and reading in-depth articles on topics outside my usual interests. I do have preferred themes and areas I gravitate towards as a creator and as a consumer, but taking some time to look elsewhere can be really invigorating and enrich me with more perspectives, insights and inspirations.
* Periodically trying something different. Not only can this help break a cycle of blah by making me excited about the novelty, it can also also build my experience and skillset as an artist. This means things like playing with a different medium, or challenging myself with styles or topics I don’t normally tackle. I think of it as experimenting, and try not to worry too much about creating something polished.
* Have a few things in the works. (This doesn’t mean everything gets turned into a finished piece – a lot doesn’t! But from experience I’ve found that quite a few things do, simply out of numbers and tenacity over time.) This way I don’t feel like any one project or idea is the be-all-end-all of my worth as an artist or a person. And it’s nice to be able to jump around and switch to a small project – a fun fan illustration or a little minizine, for example – when something big is giving me a headache. This keeps me interested, engaged, and alway stretching my creative muscles!
Step back, take some time away from your project. Maybe work on something more casual if you have something, or just let yourself just do other hobbies for a while. If that’s not right, talk through the problem you’re having with a good friend – they may be able to give you some insight or solutions.
Niuniente of FUZZY says:
Give yourself time. If you have no update schedules coming from any higher ups, there’s no need to torment yourself with regular update schedules if they give you struggle and make your creative flow worse. Only those who pay for us for our art get to demand specific deadlines from us. When you allow yourself to rest and rejuvenate, you can get around the art block easier, too.
What I always recommend is to ask the characters; who are you, what do you want? Am I doing something you don’t actually want? Check if any of the existing characters could tell you something about the character or the plot point you’re struggling with? Are you allowing the story to flow freely or are you demanding it and your creative outlet to be put into this tight box? Usually the issue standing in our way is us and our expectations. Let go of them and see, feel and sense what’s going on with your story and/or your characters.
That’s it for this month’s question! I hope you enjoyed reading through all of this wonderful advice! Also, please be sure to reach out and give these creators some love~ <3